Mar. 30, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin (62) controls the puck during the third period against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden. Rangers won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
You all know the saying, "you don't know what you got till it's gone." Well, that's how a lot of fans feel about the loss of Carl Hagelin. Not that he wasn't appreciated, but I don't think anyone expected the New York Rangers to be so out of sync without him.
It starts with his speed. Hagelin is one of, if not the, fastest skaters in the NHL, a talent he uses to forecheck and create turnovers in the offensive zone. The Rangers don't have anyone who can get into the corners or behind the net to pressure the puck as quickly as Hagelin can.
In fact, the only player anywhere near Hagelin's speed is Chris Kreider; although the two play a different style.
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The Rangers miss that. Not just the hustle, but a player who can't get into the offensive zone quick enough to make opposing players rush their passes and make mistakes. Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky-- two of the Rangers best forecheckers in this series -- haven't been nearly as effective as Hagelin was.
And that's just his defense.
On offense, the top line looks lost without him. John Tortorella has thrown a plethora of forwards into that spot, including Artem Anisimov, Kreider, Dubinsky, Callahan and even Mike Rupp for a shift or so. None of them have stuck there.
Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik admitted that while Kreider played great in Game 3 it was going to take the trio some time to gel. Well, that ended quickly, since Tortorella didn't play Kreider on the first line at all in Game 4. But regardless of who Tortorella cycles in and out of that first line, the chemistry won't be there until Hagelin is back.
No other player seems to fit. And while I liked Kreider on the first line -- and think he should get another shot there in Game 5 -- it was obvious that the group would need more time to get comfortable with each other. But it seems to me that Tortorella should get a better look at Kreider so he knows what to do with him when Hagelin returns.
Can you really tell me that John Mitchell brings more to the table than Kreider?
Either way, the Rangers miss Hagelin. Bad. Game 6 can't come soon enough. Assuming, of course, the Rangers win Game 5.